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Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week

Permalink What are some resources for marketing and pricing goat meat?


Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information and ideas for pricing meat goats for on-farm selling.

Although online information is scarce on the going rate for on-farm direct-marketing of slaughter-ready goats, there are good strategies for setting your own price. As explained in a guidebook from the Kansas Rural Center ( (See "pricing" on p.5)), one pricing strategy is to do a market survey in your area; another is to calculate your cost of production. For a sample goat meat enterprise budget, go to (Scroll down to "Business Worksheets and Calculators," and on the next page click "Enterprise Budgeting Tools." On that page, scroll down to specialty livestock, where you'll find links to meat goat enterprise budgets.) Here in the Midwest, I have heard people charging 1.25 to 1.50 per pound live weight for goat. Since carcass weight is about half the weight of the live animal, the live weight price for the buyer doubles when converted to meat.

Should you consider expanding your production and tapping into retail markets, the following are some examples of how specialty cuts of goat meat are branded and priced:

There is a wealth of general information online about meat goat production and marketing. Here are some additional resources you might find useful:



Permalink What are some resources on buidling a small-scale livestock processing facility?


Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information on small scale processing facility for cattle and hogs.

Well-designed and built multi-species processing plants will contain some if not all the following attributes: receiving and holding pens, a well-outfitted and designed kill floor, large meat coolers, a processing/fabrication area, cutting rooms, smokehouses, and a meat packaging area. They will be designed with attention to workforce safety, food safety, and animal welfare. In addition, Standard Operating Procedures will need to be developed including the implementation of a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) plan (see the resource list for more information).

Local design criteria must be followed, and since your state has an inspection service, a visit to your state Department of Agriculture will turn up the criteria you should follow in building small plants. Also, the USDA-FSIS has a new service for small and very small plant owners that provides information on inspections and compliance. See the USDA-FSIS entry in the resource list below.

Resource List

Meat Inspection in Georgia

Georgia Department of Agriculture
Animal Industry - Meat Inspection
Dr. Rex Holt, Director
19 MLK, Jr. Drive, Room 108
Atlanta, GA 30334

Facility Design

Building a Small Meat Processing Plant Webinar. eXtension.
Information on the process and the pitfalls of plant design and construction.

Thiboumery, Arion. 2009. Guide to Designing a Small Red Meat Plant. Iowa State University Extension.
This guide offers insights and formulas for planning the layout of a small-scale locker-type red-meat processing plant. Two model designs are presented and were created by an experienced meat plant consultant. The plans are for initial design use and not for construction use.

U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration
A Beef Slaughter Operation: Introduction
Ergonomic considerations of processing plant design.

Meat Processing Regulations and Practices

Meat Processing Rules & Regulations. eXtension.

HACCP: Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Information Center. Iowa State University Extension.
Resources for the development of HACCP programs in foodservice establishments (Schools, Assisted Living, Childcare, and Restaurants) and meat processing facilities.

USDA-Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
Small and Very Small Plant Outreach
Resources on regulations, compliance, and education.

Guidelines for the Establishment and Operation of an Official Red Meat Establishment
Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
IDALS, Wallace State Office Building, 502 E. 9th St.
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Best Practices for Beef Slaughter
Kerri B. Harris and Jeff W. Savell
Department of Animal Science
Texas A&M University
November 20, 2003

Business Development

Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Business Development.
Fact sheets, analysis tools, videos and other educational materials to help you create and operate a successful value-added agricultural business.



Permalink What information can you give me on organic alfalfa rotations?


Answer: Thank you for your recent request for information on organic alfalfa rotations.


(1) The Noble Foundation in Oklahoma does research and education on forages and livestock management, and makes the following recommendation on alfalfa rotations:

"...graze out alfalfa by September and prepare land for wheat or small grains pasture. Use the pasture through spring and then convert to millet or a sorghum-sudan forage for summer pasture or hay, removing the summer pasture by mid-August in order to plant an alfalfa variety in September. There will usually be enough residual nitrogen in the soil to make these two crops with no fertilizer needed. In essence, you would be managing an alfalfa stand for four to five years with one year of alternative forage production (with annuals) before returning to alfalfa again" (Aljoe, 2006).

The rotation basically looks like this:
Years 1 - 5 Alfalfa --> Year 5 fall planted small grain --> Year 6 spring pasture, then summer planted annual grass, then fall planted alfalfa.

(2) The University of Wisconsin has done some work on forage rotations on dairy farms and has found that "a three-year alfalfa stand - seeding year plus two - is more profitable than a five-year stand" (Pioneer). The rotation basically looks like this:

Year 1: Alfalfa --> Year 2 Alfalfa --> Year 3 Corn

Italian ryegrass can be seeded with the alfalfa the first year. Ryegrass germinates quickly and serves as an early weed control while the alfalfa is establishing itself. The ryegrass can be taken off as hay and make a high quality forage when harvested on or before the boot stage of development.

Practices to increase alfalfa yield and longevity

  • Conduct a soil test. The following are some generalized ideal conditions to shoot for:
    • Phosphorus - 15 ppm (parts per million)
    • Calcium - above 300 ppm
    • Ca:Mg ratio - 5:1 to 8:1
    • pH - above 6.0
    • Correct any deficiencies. For information on integrated methods of nutrient management, see the ATTRA publication: Nutrient Cycling in Pastures.
  • Delay first cutting to later in the summer to allow for adequate root and crown growth .
  • Fall harvest management - allow for at least 45 days from date of last cutting to first frost. This will ensure the alfalfa stand has enough time to repair root systems and develop enough leaf canopy to protect the plant crowns during the winter.
  • Consider rotating the field out (through tillage and replanting) if:
    • plant counts reveal less than 5 plants per square foot,
    • plant counts reveal less than 40 alfalfa stems (on plants at least two feet tall) per square foot,
    • plant counts reveal less than 2.5 plants per square foot for mixed alfalfa-grass stands.
  • Rotate the alfalfa field to a small grain such as wheat or barley for at least one year to alleviate alfalfa autotoxicity issues.

Alfalfa Re-Establishment

The information that follows comes from some practical research done by Dennis Cash, Extension Forage Specialist with Montana State University, whom I have talked with numerous times on this topic. This reflects conditions in Montana, and the differences between Montana and your area will primarily involve dates of first frost, alfalfa fall dormancy, and types of annual crops used in rotations.

"Most research and producers agree that interseeding alfalfa into thin stands is rarely successful. Thickening an existing alfalfa stand is often unsuccessful because of soil conditions, age of stand, moisture and temperature conditions, disease, competition from weeds or older established plants and autotoxicity. When all of these conditions are added up, the deck is obviously stacked against a successful interseeding. When increased production is needed, one option might be to harrow the thin stand and drill an annual [small grain crop] with the intention of replacing the alfalfa stand the following year.

"Fall harvest management is [a large] determinant for alfalfa longevity. The current guideline [is] to optimize alfalfa winter survival... The actual dates vary...but correspond to a "rest" period of 30 to 45 days before the first frost UNTIL after several consecutive days of "killing" frosts. If fields must be cut or grazed in this period, do it on older fields closer to "retirement".

"The timing for alfalfa stand replacement depends on many factors. For irrigated alfalfa [or rainfed alfalfa in the eastern US], a stand of 4+ plants per square foot (or better, 60+ stems per square foot) is generally considered a viable economic stand. Each alfalfa producer should develop a "threshold" yield level for when to replace stands. The "threshold" will vary from operation to operation based on overall operation goals and requirements. Each operation should design a rotation plan for alternative annual forages to offset low production of new alfalfa seedings" (Dixon, et al, 2005).

Alfalfa Varieties and Hay Mixes

Choose varieties with relatively high fall dormancy ratings, but make sure you do not get one that will easily winter kill in your area. The more fall-dormant a variety is, (lower the number) the faster it will go dormant in the fall, and the better it will survive the winter. However, low-dormancy rated varieties will often come back better in the spring. Varieties with higher fall-dormancies typically produce more cuttings in a growing season and go dormant later, but might winter-kill and have more trouble coming out of dormancy. Talk to your local Extension agent to see what dormancy most growers use in your area. Contact information is for local cooperative extension offices can be found at

Research has shown that grass-alfalfa mixes often compete against weeds better than a pure stand. Perennial grasses occupy different niches in the soil than do the alfalfa, and can therefore compete against annual weedy grasses and broadleaf plants. And as long as the stand consists of at least 30% alfalfa, nitrogen fertilization for the grasses becomes unnecessary. Some mixes that have been shown to compete well against weeds are alfalfa-brome-trefoil, timothy-alfalfa, and orchardgrass-alfalfa, with the first mix being the most resistant to weed infestation and the last being the least resistant to weeds (Guerena and Sullivan, 2003). Brome-alfalfa is another mixture that does well in most areas.

References and Resources

Aljoe, Hugh. 2006. Alfalfa Is 'Almost Permanent' Pasture. Ag News and Views, Pasture & Range: November. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc. Banks, Scott. 2003. Alfalfa Stand Assessment. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs.

Dixon, Paul, Dennis Cash, Janna Kincheloe and J.P. Tanner. 2005. Establishing a Successful Alfalfa Crop. Bozeman: Montana State University Extension.

Guerena, M. and P. Sullivan. 2003. Organic Alfalfa Production. Butte, MT: National Center for Appropriate Technology. Pioneer. Shorter--rotation alfalfa: Beating the high cost of nitrogen. PGP magazine/Forage.

Reinhart, R. (editor). 1990. Alfalfa Management/ Diagnostic Guide. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.

Sheaffer, Craig C., Donald K. Barnes, and Gary H. Heichel. 1989. "Annual" Alfalfa in Crop Rotations. Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Minnesota.



Permalink What information can you give me on raising pigs on pasture and heritage hog breeds?


Answer: Thank you for contacting ATTRA for information about raising hogs on pasture, and rare breeds.

I understand the desire to keep hogs in a more natural situation, and allowing them to forage. Please refer to the ATTRA publications Hog Production Alternatives, Pork: Marketing Alternatives, and Profitable Pork. They should help you weigh the positive and negative factors of those enterprises, and give you ideas about forages and fencing, as well as marketing.

In addition to those articles, I think you may benefit from reading the information referenced below. First of all, you asked about marketing, and I think that is a great place to start. The article from Kelly Klober addresses premium pork, heritage breeds, and direct marketing. Regarding heritage breeds: an excellent resource for information is the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. By reading the breed profiles from the ALBC, you will learn of the history, uses, and breed association contacts for each breed. This may help you select a breed you want to help conserve.

If (and this is a big “if”) you have access to processing, you may want to sell pork directly to consumers. It will help customers find you if you will be listed on and on the Niche Pork website and on any local foods websites. I listed our farm on Local Harvest, and get a call at least once a month from a new customer who found us through that site. Listing is free. Call your Extension agent to find out what other free listings are available.

It may be useful to you to compare different hog production systems, and to read about farmers who are doing various systems, including pasture farrowing and finishing. Their experiences may help you think through changes. Please see “Hogs Your Way” it should be interesting and useful.

You mentioned forages to plant. I would think it might be advantageous (if your land is suited to crops) to grow some corn for the sows to “hog off”. That is an old method and letting the hogs do the harvesting is tried and true. For a farrowing lot you will need grasses that provide more cover and protect the soil. It will be important to rotate animals and not be overstocked. If you allow hogs to stay in an area too long, they will compact the ground and the result will be very similar to concrete; bare, packed, vulnerable soil. I encourage you to think of ways to protect your land, even if that means temporary confinement for the hogs. See pages 35-49 of “Hogs Your Way” for more considerations.


Klober, Kelly. 2008. Customers seeking taste, type, integrity and terroir drive traditional pork revival. Rodale Institute. 5 p.

Information from The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy about heritage hogs: Ossabaw Island, Red Wattle, Tamworth, Hereford, Mulefoot, Gloucester Old Spots, Choctaw, and Large Black hogs.

DiGiacomo, G., Love, P., Martin, W., Morse, D., Nelson, B., Virnig, K. 2001. Hogs Your Way: Choosing a Hog Production System in the Upper Midwest. University of Minnesota Extension Service Bulletins BU-7641-S.



Permalink What information can you give me on varieties of lavender?


Answer: Thank you for requesting from ATTRA a list of all available varieties of lavender. Please see our publication Lavender Production and Marketing.

Refer to The Big Book of Herbs, by Arthur O. Tucker (Delaware State University) and Thomas DeBaggio—both with considerable expertise on lavender. The main species of lavender grown commercially are cultivars of Lavandula angustifolia and of the hybrid L. x intermedia (Lavandin). As Tucker says,

The genus [Lavandula] includes about 20 species of the Atlantic Islands and the Mediterranean, but only a few have any real herbal uses. The remaining species are tender perennials and not hardy outside of southern California.

Another compendium is Lavender: The Grower’s Guide, by New Zealand Botanical Officer Virginia McNaughton. Information on how to order both reference works is found in the ATTRA publication. (Or, you may request to borrow these books through the Interlibrary Loan service of your local public or university library.) On-line book vendors may also have them.


Tucker, Arthur O., and Thomas DeBaggio. 2000. The Big Book of Herbs. Interweave Press, Loveland, CO. p. 314–338.

McNaughton, Virginia. 2000. Lavender: The Grower’s Guide. Timber Press, Portland, OR (orig. pub. Blooming Books, Australia). 180 p.



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